The proper way to honor service

Cura Personalis. Magis. Reflection. Discernment. Solidarity and kinship. Service rooted in justice and love. Anyone who’s attended a GOA session or seen any of the numerous signs around campus detailing Xavier’s core values knows these words and their importance to our university. These are things Xavier students value above all else. But there are a select few who value them to an extent many of us can’t begin to comprehend.

These are the Community-Engaged Fellows, Xavier’s unsung heroes. Despite being the faces of the university and going out a minimum of 10 hours a week to benefit the Cincinnati community, these fellows get little to no recognition for their work. They are the busiest, most capable, funniest, smartest and above all, kindest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Yet Xavier unfortunately doesn’t recognize their daily sacrifices.

Not only does Xavier not aptly promote the services the Fellows engage in, nor the good work they enact within the community on campus, but they also don’t reward these students enough financially, nor do they provide adequate transportation for all of the Fellows. Many often have to find alternate means of transport to their service sites.

I learned about the service through my roommate, who detailed the rigorous application process to me during our first few weeks of roommate bonding. I was shocked to find that almost 300 people apply for one of eight spots in each first-year class, with only 40 earning an interview. It’s a highly competitive process, especially because Xavier offers a $22,000 scholarship. It’s an awfully nice bonus by most accounts.

But is it enough? Let’s do the math here. These students are doing 10 hours of community service a week for approximately 30 weeks (give or take a few days with miscellaneous weekend holidays and such) for four years. That’s at least 300 hours of service a year (if not more), amounting to approximately 1,200 hours by the time they are ready to graduate.

I’ll say it again. 1,200 hours.

To put that in context, you could watch Jurassic Park 566 times in a row and still not have watched as many hours of dinosaurs murdering people as these students have dedicated from their lives to helping the greater Cincinnati area. It’s exactly 50 days, or a little more than seven weeks of service. That’s no small exertion of time and energy.

For eight students per class, $22,000 doesn’t seem like nearly enough money when you consider how much they sacrifice. Although they are planning to increase the scholarship amount by $8,000 next year, why aren’t these students given full-ride scholarships? Many athletes and exceptional scholars receive full rides for their academic and physical prestige, but what about those who excel in selflessness? Xavier has the St. Francis Xavier Scholarship, an award allotted for 10 incoming students annually who demonstrate “exceptional academic achievement and outstanding leadership involvement in their community and/or school.”

Doesn’t this sound exactly like what is required of the Fellows? Not only do they have amazing leadership qualities — serving by either creating a team or organization by themselves or being able to enter different communities and lead those within toward a common goal — but also the academic excellence — once again, maintaining a 3.0 GPA while juggling a social life, service, campus involvement and/or jobs they might have as well.

The difference may not seem like much, but when $22,000 only covers one semester of the average student’s tuition (at best), these Fellows end up paying for nearly two years of schooling  here at Xavier. Yet even with the $8,000 bump in scholarship money, is it still enough?

Not really, especially when you consider that these students provide their own transit to and from their service sites, which can involve gas costs and costs to repair vehicle damage. Although carpooling is frequent and encouraged, it can be difficult for those who serve in different areas of the community, especially when class schedules don’t align or services begin at differing times.

Compare this to members of the men’s basketball team who receive full rides. They  might spend comparable amounts of time in the gym as these students do in the community, but they reap many benefits that these Fellows do not. Transport to and from games, praise for their work (whether they win or lose), significantly more money in scholarships and — the most obvious of all — notoriety.

I wouldn’t have known about the Fellowship if not for my roommate. The thing that ties all of these spectacular people together is that they are not the bragging type. They don’t want recognition or more scholarship funding.

These people truly are the best of the Xavier community. They are the nicest, the smartest, the most interesting and by far the kindest group of people I have ever met. These are students who are passionate about doing good for the sake of doing good, and Xavier, not only as a university but also as a morally upstanding institution, ought to once again give out full rides to those who commit themselves to such a noble cause. If Xavier truly cares about its core Ignatian values, then it ought to truly honor them by honoring those who best demonstrate it — the Community-Engaged Fellows.

Alanna Belmont is a staff writer for the Newswire. She is a first-year biology and English double major from Washington, D.C.